SINGAPORE - Kiki Bertens stands one win away from making it out of round robin play in her maiden appearance at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, and any doubts she felt at the start of the week are long gone.
“I deserve to be here right now. That's my feeling,” she said after a narrow loss to Sloane Stephens early Thursday morning, ending her nine-match winning streak against Top 10 opposition.
“I played good tennis. I already played some great matches against Top 10 players the whole year. I beat a lot of them. Against Kerber I won and today I was again really close. Yeah, it's good that I'm here.”
Champion at the Western & Southern Open and runner-up at the Mutua Madrid Open, Bertens was the last to secure a berth in Singapore, and appeared poised for a disastrous debut when she fell behind a set and a break to Kerber on Monday.
“In the beginning when you play like this, I was really thinking, ‘Okay, do I belong here? I'm playing so bad and all that kind of stuff,’” she admitted.
The Dutch star turned the tables on the former World No.1, and nearly did the same against Stephens after leveling the match from a set down. Despite ultimately falling in three, Bertens had plenty to be proud of, hitting more winners and winning nine more points than the 2017 US Open champion.
“I think I could play a little bit more like how I'm comfortable playing, because in the second set you could see that I was putting pressure, and she was missing some shots.
“In the third set, she was just really solid, and I was missing too many balls. I think it was just a few points, and then you start doubting a little and that's never good.In general I could play a little bit more the way I wanted to play, but sometimes maybe I had to play a little bit more aggressive.”
She’ll need all that aggression in her last match against Naomi Osaka; a win over the reigning US Open winner would all but guarantee her place in the semifinals. The one exception comes if both Kerber and Bertens win in three sets, in which case the semifinalists will come down to percentage of games won.
“I think you saw that already the whole season, like there is not one player that was really winning almost every tournament or winning a lot of tournaments. I think everything was really close. In the slams you could see that as well.
“I think it makes it really fun here that still anybody can be in the semis. I think it's going to be exciting next upcoming two days.”
Bertens faces Osaka as the first singles match on Friday afternoon at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.